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Believing In God

We just began a new quarter in our Sunday school program this year with a church wide plan to go on a quest. This quest is to learn how to seek God and have victory in Christ over life as a believer. This quest is a 40 day program that is an offshoot of the Purpose driven Life by Rick Warren, a book I have read previously. I decided to try this program to improve my own life and things were going along well until I began to look into day two.

The author of the book we are using made a statement that "becoming a Christian begins with repentance" which I agree with. However the author of the book we are using provided a formula to repentance using a definition as a guideline to become a believer that I disagree with. The author’s formula consists of recognition of our sin, a sincere confession with sorrow, and a complete forsaking of that sin. This formula amounts to a formal apology and the kind of repentance God desires once you have been saved. The form of repentance God desires is to have a change of mind that forsakes his wicked ways and begins to turn to the Lord and live in harmony with God.    

If you look at the verses above you will not see sorrow involved in God's requirements. Isaiah 55:7 demands that you forsake sin and the thoughts that conceive sin. Romans 10:9-10 demands a commitment that Jesus is Lord.  John 8:10-11 is a demand that the adulteress leave her life of sin. Luke 23:42-43 is the example of the man on the cross next to Jesus that simply asked him to remember him.   The sinner's prayer does not require a theological approach to be saved as Romans 10:9-10 contains the principles God demands.  Using the guidelines the author of our quarterly is a theological approach of how to be saved. In his treatise the author used Matthew 4:17 as a biblical premise to prove his case as follows.

From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." Matthew 4:17

Repentance as this passage describes repent is not the formal apology the author highly recommended believers to exercise. Logic tells you that it stands to reason you must be a believer to know how you have offended God and understand that he deserves an apology for your actions.  However, the formula the author suggests has nothing to do with believing, but it has more to do with maintaining a good relationship with your father. You should be remorseful for violating his trust.   The following are typical definitions that have been rendered to repent from various Greek lexicons.

NT:3340 metanoeo (met-an-o-eh'-o); from NT:3326 and NT:3539; to think differently or afterwards, i.e. reconsider (morally, feel compunction):KJV - repent. Strongs Exhaustive concordance
NT:3340 metanoeoo, metanoo; to change one's mind, i. e., to repent Luke 17:3 f Thayer's Greek Lexicon
NT:3340 metanoe meta/noia to change one's way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness - 'to repent, to change one's way, repentance.' Greek-English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domain
NT:3340. metanoeo lit., "to perceive afterwards" (meta, "after," implying "change," noeo, "to perceive"; nous, "the mind, the seat of moral reflection"), in contrast to pronoeo, "to perceive beforehand," hence signifies "to change one's mind or purpose," from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words

When Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" he was not asking his listeners to make a formal apology to God. He was informing them the Kingdom of God was soon coming and they needed to change the way they live. This thought can be compared with what John said.

John was saying that God wants to see deeds that reflect your change of heart. The idea of repentance is responsive to the word of God quoted by Isaiah.

When Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" he was preaching to people who were living as they saw fit. Believers need to have a change of mind and those in the world have refused to recognize the sovereignty of God the Most High. Being a believer demands that you put into practice what you have learned about God and his plan of salvation. For the same reason being a believer is what compels you to apologize for your sin and turn from that sin.

Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Deuteronomy 4:39  

Once we recognize God’s authority and receive Christ as Lord, we are given the right to become the Sons of God.

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. John 1:12-13

Believers take on a new outlook on life and see God from a new perspective as they learn to agree with God. Just as we obeyed our earthly father and respected his authority we should do the same for our heavenly father.  For this reason, the eyes of believers are open to the truth of God’s word and are willing to make changes to please God the father. We come to know and love God through a personal relationship, but we demonstrate our love through obedience.

Our memory verse for the kickoff week is another strong argument against the form of repentance that the author recommended. Being saved is by grace or what is sometimes known as unmerited favor. There is nothing we can do to merit our salvation, because it is a gift.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

Lets consider that the gift of eternal salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit guarantees what is to come and these gifts are ours as long as we live. If you cherish that gift you will take care of it and keep it in proper working condition. The formula that the quarterly gave is an theological approach to keep our relationship in a state approved by God.

We also know that Abraham believed God and he was credited as being righteous before God. Salvation is a gift from the beginning of time because God so loved the world that all we have to do is believe in Christ to be saved.  

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

The third part of this repentance argument does not make a believer out of a wicked person. To say that all one has to do is repent to be saved doesn't make Jesus Christ our Lord whereas a public declaration that Jesus is Lord does. Believing demands that you personally choose to believe that Jesus atoned for your sins on the Cross of Calvary and was raised from the dead. True repentance demands that your deeds correspond with your vow to turn from sin. We find that some people prefer to think of the gospel message as foolishness and cleverly made up stories.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:18

Has the author forgotten Romans 10: 14-17 faith comes from hearing the word of God.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?" Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. Romans 10: 14-17

One cannot become a believer unless he has heard of the options God has given to him to receive the gift of God. How can one make a sound decision about their life unless they know of a feasible option to choose from? Choosing God as your personal Savior is a choice that you must make, but you must also have a sound reason to believe.

In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15

Approximately 90% of America’s population believe in God and his Son Jesus Christ. Many of them have repented and have received Jesus Christ as their Savior. However, a believer finds God to be trustworthy and has the faith and desire to live a life that pleases God.

Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. Revelation 3:2-3

Many have repented and have received Jesus Christ as their Savior. Some of those who repented of their sin do not have sufficient deeds to show that they have had a change of mind or the desire to obey God. While they believe in God their lives show that they do not practice what they believe.

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